Penny-pinching Premier League

Why the January transfer window was the slowest in over a decade 😮

Drăgușin has played all of eight minutes across his three appearances since signing with Spurs

For those of you chronically browsing your favorite club’s subreddit like me, this past 'F5 season’ was a huge disappointment.

The biggest Premier League signing of the January window was Radu Drăgușin joining Tottenham from Genoa for a sum of £21.5m. While the Romanian center back is a talented player who should offer some much-needed reinforcements to Spurs’ back line, he’s about as exciting as the Jimmy Buffett (RIP) tribute band that plays at your grandmother’s retirement home every second Tuesday of the month.

The slowest window in over a decade

The sum fetched for Drăgușin wouldn’t have even cracked the top flight’s biggest 30 transfers last summer, and is symbolic of a decrease in spending across the Premier League for the first transfer window in 12 years:

  • PL clubs spent a combined £109m this transfer window, which is £717m lower than the record-breaking total spent in January 2023.

  • Other than January 2021, when club activities were restricted by the pandemic, this is the lowest level of PL spending in a transfer window since 2012 (£60m).

Here’s how that spending breaks down by club:

11 clubs not spending a dime!? What gives? Why, just months removed from spending money like a wannabe rapper whose mixtape just dropped, have clubs kept their wallets shut for what feels like the first window in years?

There are several reasons why this happened.

Last January was an anomaly

The January window is in the middle of the season, after all, so player movement is significantly reduced compared to the summer. If a club offloads a key contributor, then they have to scramble to find a replacement, and they’ll likely have to overpay to get him. Else, they risk slipping down the table.

This wasn’t the case last January, when Chelsea’s £280m spending spree skewed our expectations of what typically happens in the January window. Premier League clubs spent a combined £716m in January 2023 £503m more than the average league spending of the last ten January windows. 😮 

Enzo Fernándezes don’t grow on trees.

The Premier League is cracking down on PSR

Financial Fair Play (FFP) has long been a thorn in the side of Premier League clubs, but they now have the enforcement of another set of regulations to deal with: Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR). PSR dictate that clubs must not lose more than £105m over the course of a rolling three-year period.

Why? To prevent clubs from going on massive spending sprees without selling players (looking at you, Chelsea).

The rules were introduced back in 2013, but the league is beginning to crack down on them this season, with Everton and Forest having been punished for breaches. There are also musings of the league introducing “real-time” monitoring to ensure compliance and punish clubs more expeditiously.

Everton fans protesting the punishment handed down by the “corrupt” Premier League

Not wanting to face a similar punishment as Everton – who were docked ten points in November – clubs are clutching their purse strings and getting their finances in order behind the scenes, erring on the side of caution instead of taking on risk with a new signing.

The domino effect is real

Just one deal can create a ripple effect on the entire transfer market. Last summer, Arsenal signed Kai Havertz from Chelsea for £65m. That same day, Chelsea signed Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig for £52m, who then signed Loïs Openda from Lens for €38.5m, who in turn signed Elye Wahi from Montpellier for €30m.

Just like that, £175m was spent on a very expensive game of musical chairs (err… strikers), all prompted by one deal.

With fewer deals happening for the aforementioned reasons, this chain reaction never really got going in January, so there was less money circulating between clubs.

The Saudi project is falling apart

A lot of these chain reactions started last summer when Saudi Arabian clubs spent ludicrous sums of money on Premier League stars. Now that players like Aymeric Laporte have played half a season in the Saudi Pro League, they’re seeing that everything in the Middle East ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, hundred of millions of dollars be damned. 💸

Laporte is earning over $500,000 per week at Al-Nassr

Ex-Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson left for Ajax last month after struggling to adapt to the Saudi Pro League, and Laporte revealed in a recent interview that he and many other players are unhappy.

They have not made it easy for us. In fact, there are many players that are discontented.

Aymeric Laporte

With such negative press emerging around players’ experience in Saudi Arabia, Premier League stars are understandably hesitant about following the likes of Laporte to the Persian Gulf. Not a single Premier League player signed with a Saudi club in January, and the most expensive Saudi acquisition from Europe’s top leagues was Renan Lodi, who signed with Al-Hilal from Marseille for a fee of only €23m.

Fewer Premier League players being poached by the Saudi league significantly reduced the amount of transfer activity in January.

The beginning of a trend? Transfer spending in January was actually up across the rest of Europe’s top five leagues, so it seems this was just a blip on the radar for the Premier League. Expect spending to once again run rampant once the dust settles on the Saudi project (literally) and clubs get accustomed to more stringent enforcement of PSR. 🤑